SPOTLIGHT: Tired: a novel by Joe Bielecki


I’m tired.
Me too.


Eric took a long hit from his cigarette and let the smoke waft lazily out of his mouth and dissipate into the already hazy air in the small humid garage that contained him and Alexis. He stared as the new smoke drifted up and mixed with the fog and soon unfocused his eyes and just sat.


What do you want to do today?
Isn’t it night time?
I don’t know.
Let’s go to the park.


The two twenty somethings walked side by side down the sidewalk. Eric glanced around at the lawns of the houses, into backyards, into windows. Alexis stared straight ahead chasing the horizon. The suburban streets wound and unfurled as the two walked side-by-side down the sidewalk into the expanding claustrophobic nothingness of their suburb. Killing time.


You can tell how many kids a family has by how much crabgrass they have in their yard.
Yeah?


They arrived at an old park nestled somewhere in the sea of two-story houses. It had rusting jungle gyms and broken or forgotten swing sets. Alexis sat on the only swing that could still be sat upon and stared up at Eric. He stared at the night sky. He knew the stars were there but the lights from the streetlights and houses and cars and distant city obscured all but the closest and brightest few. No constellations, no mystical, mythical figures to bound through the expanse of space, but Eric did not know about constellations and would not have looked for them even if he knew more than that old story about slaves and the big dipper. There were just two bright points signifying defiance of civilization. Alexis’ feet soon became tired and she walked to a slide that was covered in graffiti. She lay down, not thinking about how dirty the slide was, and looked at Eric from there. He looked different from far away. Later they returned to their garage to smoke and sit and talk and wait for the sun to come up. In the morning they showered in the house and put on different clothes and headed for their jobs.


Anything else for you today?
“No, that’s it, thanks.”
Okay, have a good day.


Anything I can help you with, sir/ma’am?
“No, just looking, thanks.”
Okay, well let me know if you need anything.
“Thanks.”


When the night came they returned home and changed into their clothes from the night before and took their places in the garage. Eric on a yellow bean bag chair and Alexis in a moldy recliner.


I’m tired.
Me too.


The day had been long and hot and the normally humid garage was on par with swamps and rainforests and the smoke of cigarettes was appealing to neither of the two and so they smoked out of a hookah with ice cubes in the bottom that swam in the water and cooled the tobacco on its way to their lungs. Their heads felt dizzy. The memories of the day faded into the moisture around them like the day had never really happened. They swam and sat and sank into their spots and dissolved into the room around them. Into each other. Each piece of dandruff and ear wax and toenail intermingled with guava flavored tobacco smoke and water and sweat vapor and swirled around the room in a collage of nothingness that was so deafening and complete that neither noticed when Grant burst through the door and took the now forgotten hose and took a drag of hookah himself.


“Damn, guys. It looks like a murder scene in here.”


Eric heard but did not respond and Alexis just stared at Grant with eyes so hazel and empty that he was forced to look away. “I mean, come on guys. Work couldn’t have been that hard on you guys. I’ve been pulling twelve hour shifts all week.”


More nothing bombarded the man who was only slightly older than the two he was confronting. The cold shoulders froze his four-day stubble and hair that was both graying early and falling out early and shook him to his core. “I mean, do you want to go to a movie or something?” Alexis looked at Eric who without saying anything stood up and grabbed his car keys off the microwave box that was now a table in the center of the room and walked toward the door.


What movie do you want to see?
“I don’t care, I just want you guys to get out and do something.”
So you’re paying?
He knows he’s paying.


Eric’s car was full of blankets and old clothes that he had never bothered to unpack since moving into the small house with Alexis. Alexis rode shotgun gazing at the sunset that was ahead of them and barely even a sunset anymore. Grant awkwardly shuffled some shirts and shorts out of the way of his feet as he squeezed himself into the small two-door car. Bad knees covered in scars and hair and dirt from earlier that day watched the two people in the front of the car.


“This will be fun.”
Okay.


The movie was a summer action flick. Made to make money. All tits and guns and ass and tits and explosions and tits. A young girl who looked too young to have been let into the movie sat directly in front of Eric and he spent most of the film finding shapes and faces in the lines of her matted hair. Alexis watched the movie with as much intent as she could muster. Each soft curve of womanly flesh and every hard line of gun and machine etched into her mind and her face and her hands and her elbows and her knees. Grant guffawed and cheered with each cloud of fire that bloomed and blossomed on screen. His eyes and mouth hung wide open, pace quickening, veins expanding and pants tightening. Reacting just the way he was supposed to. The credits rolled and the three stood up in unison and in silence and drove into the darkness with their backs to the scraps of pink sunlight that still clung to a few clouds that hung low over the horizon.


“The movie was good right?”
I guess.
Yeah, fine.
“Well thanks for coming you guys. I had a good time. I better get off to bed. First shift and all. What are you two going to do?”
I don’t know, what do you want to do?
I don’t know, what do you want to do?


Grant oozed through the space between the back of Alexis’ seat and the door and tumbled onto the driveway.


I think we’re going to drive around some more.
Thanks for paying.


Before Grant had even collected himself enough to rise from the pavement, the car had already left the driveway, door closing with the force of the car.


I hate him.
He’s not so bad.
He’s annoying.
He’s not so bad.
He’s just so much.

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